Friday, September 2, 2016

Ready... Set... "Ghost!"

If costumes can be recycled for TV and movies, then why not a set? Actually, there's a fun video out there that shows all the times the curved grand staircase from Auntie Mame (1958) popped up in movies, before and after. It's quite startling! But today we're examining a particular set. Shown here is a dollhouse from a 1972 episode of a little known series called Ghost Story. Produced by William Castle, I discovered it not long ago and have been enjoying the type of guest star pairings that longtime readers know thrill me to no end! David Birney, Barbara Parkins & Jeanette Nolan one week, Jason Robards & Stella Stevens the next, then Stuart Whitman with Gena Rowlands, James Franciscus with Elizabeth Ashley and so on.

So then this one came up, episode 8, "House of Evil" with Melvyn Douglas, Jodie Foster, Richard Mulligan and Mildred Dunnock. It centers on Douglas, who harbors a tremendous grudge against his late daughter's widower. The widower (Mulligan) allowed his wife to die in childbirth in order to save the baby (who is played now by Foster.) Mulligan is now remarried (to Joan Hotchkis) and lives with her, their newly-adopted son (Brad Savage) and housekeeper Dunnock.

After ingratiating himself enough to pay a visit (after several years of estrange- ment), Douglas forms a telekinetic bond with his granddaughter Foster, who is stone deaf. He speaks to her with his mind and begins to use her as a pawn in his game of revenge, much of which involves the house they all are living in and which he has had recreated as a dollhouse for her amusement. He next pilfers some smiley-faced raisin cookies and has Foster dress them up in snatches of real clothing taken from each member of the household. Then the voodoo kicks in!

But the house... This sole shot of it from the outside is a night scene, so please forgive the blurry look of it. Does it seem familiar at all?

How about now in this shot from an earlier program. (I have to confess that this is a colorized version of the original scene, which was initially broadcast in black & white.) It's not a place where mystical or spooky goings on would be particularly out of place.

Yes, this set for the Douglas episode of Ghost Story is actually the one and the same home that housed Elizabeth Montgomery and crew of Bewitched for eight seasons! Bewitched went off the air in the spring of 1972 and Ghost Story began its one-season run that fall. The top photo has Douglas arriving, greeted by a skeptical Dunnock. The bottom one has Montgomery opening the door for her (temporary) nosy neighbor Mary Grace Canfield.

In this pairing, we see Hotchkis cleaning up the living room while speaking to Mulligan while in the picture below, (second Darrin) Dick Sergeant entertains his boss David White and a another couple in the very same, albeit redressed, room.

Here we see Douglas presenting Foster with her present in the house's foyer while below is the very same foyer, but with the wallpaper and alternate furnishings that were on set for later episodes of Bewitched.

Bewitched's stairs turned off near the end, with a landing and wound up facing the front door. For the set of Ghost Story, the stairs led straight down all the way to the edge of the living room.

This shot shows Foster descending the stairs while the one below shows a guest star (Cliff Hall) doing the same on Bewitched.

This set of shots depicts the living room fireplace, mantel and bookshelves as seen in the varying programs.
Fans of Bewitched will recall the placement of the TV set nestled below that landing of the stairs, a place I always found a bit awkward, but they never seemed to watch a great deal of television anyway.

And the dining room! Paul Lynde as Uncle Arthur is seen standing before the Stephens' dining room while below Foster is seen trundling through the revised version in her TV episode. The kitchen is completely different in these two series because the set for the Bewitched kitchen had been transplanted for use in The Paul Lynde Show which debuted that fall.

A closer look reveals that Mulligan and his family actually have the very same dining room furniture that The Stephens owned when the house was theirs!! Dunnock is polishing the table that once served many a crazy meal to various family members and clients of Samantha and Darrin's.

The many changes in look for this set probably took quite a bit of work for studio craftsmen who might have benefited from the famous nose twitch that Montgomery used to utilize in each episode. Somehow she made redecorating a hell of a lot easier.  LOL

The 1969 Jerry Lewis comedy Hook, Line and Sinker was filmed while Bewitched was still on the air, but utilized The Stephens' home as well. As seen here with Lewis' wife in the film, Anne Francis, the fireplace was given a huge, flat, stone facade and the large window leading to the patio was draped with garish, deep-red curtains.

The decor was done with lots of orange, red and gold and, as shown here, the TV placement was changed to a more realistic location. While plenty was done to obscure the fact that this was the Bewitched living space, it's still incredibly distinctive for fans of the show.
Here is a look at the foyer and stairs as Francis attempts to communicate with TV-addicted babysitter Kathleen Freeman.

This movie found room for a piano in the spacious, yet ultimately quite cluttered, living room. (Sorry about the poor quality of this vidcap.)

The set was far from done being used, though. It was featured as James Caan and Shelley Fabares' home in the iconic TV-movie Brian's Song (1971), some shots seen below including that unmistakable foyer wallpaper, and in various other products from Gidget Goes to Rome (1963) to certain episodes of I Dream of Jeannie and even Home Improvement.
In Ghost Story, the dollhouse and real house are seen burning to a crisp, but exterior, in fact, still stands today. A video with some clips of the house before and after Bewitched, some surprisingly current, can be seen here, though often it's just the top of the house that can be seen.
When Douglas acted in this installment of Ghost Story, he was already an Oscar-winner for Hud (1963) and had an Emmy for an episode of CBS Playhouse (1967.) A cinematic leading man of the 1930s, he was good then, but later developed into a terrifically good curmudgeon in supporting parts. He won a second Oscar for Being There (1979) and had also earned a nomination for I Never Sang for My Father (1970), but that went to George C. Scott for Patton. In 1981, he joined several other old-timers for the unrelated feature film called Ghost Story. My favorite Douglas story regards a statement he once made that in effect said being co-starred with Greta Garbo (who he was paired with three times!) didn't necessarily warrant an introduction to Miss Garbo!

Little did anyone know during the filming of this program that Douglas' diminutive costar Foster would herself grow up to collect two Oscars as well, for The Accused (1988) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991!) Did something rub off?


Gingerguy said...

This was fascinating. I know the show only because I watched a William Castle Collection DVD, and it had as an extra an episode with Patty Duke and John Astin. I remembered seeing it as a child, and it scared the pajama pants off me. I instantly knew it was the Stevens home (supposedly in Westport CT.) as I lived for "Bewitched" and still do. A friend moved to Westport and I would visit often but sadly we never met any Witches (that we know of). In Salem MA. there is a plaque in one of the hotels where the cast of "Bewitched" stayed, I found that much more interesting than the house of the 7 gables. The one thing I do remember about that set was in the early incarnation of the show there was a bar in front of the stairs that later became a tv set. Who needed tv in that house? I loved Mildred Dunnock in "Butterfield 8" as trampy Gloria's long suffering Mom. Keep up the eagle eye Poseidon, you make recycling fun.

Kevin Keane said...

Its the screen gems house on "Blondie Street on the Columbia Pictures lot. I first saw it on Hazel it was the home of Harry Noll George Baxter's law partner. Then it was used by both Hazel and Bewitched after 1964. Then when Hazel had a cast change and her Set became Gidget's new house it was just a house in the neighborhood.

joel65913 said...

Very cool post. I'm quite sure this isn't the only instance of a set being used repeatedly but for one so well known for so long it's great to see the follow up. I liked the layout of the Bewitched house but that wallpaper in the foyer!!! Egads busy doesn't even begin to cover it but that was the 60's.

I don't remember the series Ghost Story but I liked the feature that Melvyn Douglas appeared in that came a few years after. Great cast in that one.

Scot said...

If you like coincidences like that. check out the house in the Seth Rogen CARTOON, Sausage Party - it's the Brady Bunch's house!

Poseidon3 said...

Hi all! Thanks for reading and commenting on this.

Gingerguy, I forgot about that bar at the foot of the stairs!! (And I've even been watching the first two seasons on DVD over the last year or two...) Maybe they began to drink less when Sam got pregnant? Or maybe they just wanted the place to have a TV in it. I know there was one ep where they were watching a candidate on TV and maybe just felt like leaving the TV there afterwards?

Kevin, I think over time Warner Brothers took over that lot, too? It's a whole tangled history of use and reuse. There's a video in the post that shows how often the place has been seen (the top, for the most part) in many movies and shows. The adjacent street in particular seems to have really gotten a workout!

Joel, I can recall always trying to catch "Ghost Story" (the movie) as a kid on cable because Craig Wasson (where is he now....??) had a full frontal nude scene and such things were rare when I was a sprout. (Rare now, too, in mainstream movies!)

Scot, that's interesting... I wonder if Florence Henderson or any of the "kids" have seen the movie!

Unknown said...

In episode 6 or so, a bloke had come to install the tv antenna and in an attempt to swindle Sam he completely pulled apart the tv, but Sam outsmarted him and "fixed" it herself. He left the tv in pieces all over the floor and went to the kitchen to call his mate to tell him to go ahead and install the antenna. When he came back into the living room he found Sam sitting there watching the tv.